Wednesday May 24, 2017

After Guantanamo: Dennis Edney on defending Omar Khadr

The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta. The base's detention camps are numbered based on the order in which they were built, not their order of precedence or level of security.

The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta. The base's detention camps are numbered based on the order in which they were built, not their order of precedence or level of security. (Kathleen T. Rhem/Wikipedia CC)

Listen to Full Episode 53:58

In 2002, a 15-year-old boy was caught by American forces in Afghanistan after a firefight, and imprisoned in Guantanamo for the next 13 years. The boy was Omar Khadr, and his then little-known lawyer was Dennis Edney from Edmonton. From the Stratford Festival, Dennis Edney talks with Paul Kennedy about a life-changing experience that contains a challenge for us all. **This episode originally aired February 1, 2017.


 

Dennis Edney

Omar Khadr's lawyer Dennis Edney speaks to the media outside the courthouse after Khadr was granted bail in Edmonton on Thursday, May 7, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Omar Khadr spent most of the next thirteen years in Guantanamo Bay prison. Today he lives in Edmonton with the family of the man who got him out of Guantanamo -- lawyer Dennis Edney.

"In all the years I went to Guantanamo, he was always chained to the floor. And so I saw my job as trying to keep him alive, and I talked to him about hope. And I used to keep pointing to the steel door and I said 'behind that door is light.'"

Few people had ever heard of Dennis Edney in 2002. He had no expertise in international law or human rights, but when he heard about Omar Khadr, started reading up on his story, and researching the law, Dennis Edney's life was changed. He committed himself to the case of Omar Khadr, working for no fee, standing in front of the courts, and the microphones and cameras, searching for that elusive thing -- justice.

These days, Dennis Edney has his life more-or-less back together, but the case of Omar Khadr, and everything it represents -- the rule of law, human rights, tolerance and compassion -- all these things, the bedrock of justice, are still very much on his mind. At the Stratford Festival in the summer of 2016, Dennis Edney spoke about all the things he has learned since 2002.



Further reading:

  • Guantanamo's Child: the Untold Story of Omar Khadr by Michelle Shephard. Wiley, 2008



** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded at the the Stratford Festival, thanks Melissa Renaud, David Campbell, Keira Loughran and Dian Marie Bridge. Special thanks to Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.